Let’s face it, your engineer has no deep seated love of food or for the romance some men find in reducing a quality piece of meat to near charcoal over a gas fired outdoor range – completely destroying the meat’s flavor (and burning several arm hairs) in the process.
Why then does your engineer act as if barbecuing is critically important to him – as if it were an activity that makes his measly life bearable and one that he couldn’t possibly do without?
Two answers. One relates to you – the object of whatever affection he is actually capable of feeling. The other relates to the neighbors – the people who mostly torment your engineer for his lack of social graces, but tolerate him because he always has beer in the cooler!
First, let’s talk about barbecuing and you.
If he were being totally honest (and he can’t get away with a lie even if his life depended on it!), your engineer would admit that he is most comfortable when you rule the roost. At these times you tell him exactly what you want him to do. He follows as best he can, based on his (mis)understanding of your instructions. He hopes by doing this that you will be less upset than he usually makes you! But, he does want to contribute to the operation of the house, in a way that doesn’t appear to challenge your superiority in the kitchen (or anywhere else you choose to exert your authority).
Our society seems to have delegated the role of burning meat outdoors to the men (although all the food prep is still largely done by the women). Your engineer is happy to play along, even though he never really learned this skill.
His approach is to put his entire focus onto the soon to be carbonized bits of food he’s placed on the grill, worrying about how many times to flip each item for optimal flavor and thorough cooking, that is when he’s not worrying about mis-flipping, and having the expensive food slip between the grill and in to the flame.
But, as with other skills to be learned, your engineer must experiment. It will most likely take a year or two of weekly hamburgers before he finally figures out a system for cooking them to his perfection. Note that was HIS definition of perfection – not yours. Figuring our your perfection will take an additional year! Think of the satisfaction that he’ll derive from all this learning – be sure to encourage him!
When it comes to the neighbors, your engineer wants only one thing – the biggest, bad-assed, most complex backyard grill around. Directly connected to the house gas supply! With built in storage for implements, condiments fridge, and places for the chef’s drink.
Now before you get too far down the wrong path, this isn’t some misplaced version of the same envy that makes men buy high powered sports cars. Noooo! This is far more subtle.
It’s his backyard conversation piece – just like a good painting or work of art in the house. The more complex the better! It’s the only reason he can think of why any male visitor would actually want to talk to him! He gets all the attention he craves for at least 5 minutes each time a new victim – I mean visitor – comes by to check it out. Social paradise!
So next time he asks to update the barbecue, give some thought to all the benefits you derive from it. He gets face time with visitors, a sense of contributing to the house as well as the joy of learning new skills – even though he SAYS that he already knows all he needs in this area.
You get him out of your hair for 45 minutes during the critical run up to serving a meal AND the joy of knowing that he can’t do much social damage while cooking, as the focus on minimizing charcoal production will consume so much of his brain that he can’t possibly dominate conversations with others while any food is actually on the grill!
Go ahead – get the big one! Take away some of his performance anxiety – both kinds!